What do you call a TV show with six okay episodes and one very good one? Cancelled.

James Plath's picture

Who did they think they were fooling? Did original series creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry think the public would embrace a revival of one of the most popular sitcoms from the Sixties a quarter of a century later if they simply called it by the same name: "Get Smart"?

The original series starring Don Adams as bumbling agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 was a wonderful spy spoof that had people everywhere repeating Smart's catch-phrases--his "Sorry about that"s and his "Would you believe?"s. For five seasons fans giggled over Smart's Clouseau-like bane of his chief's existence and the accidental successes that this CONTROL agent had against evil KAOS operatives. But to try to recapture the magic of a show like for a new generation, without Edward Platt as The Chief? That's awfully optimistic, even if the writing were as crisp and original as it was the first time around--which it's not. This was a show whose time had passed.

Apparently it wasn't enough of a hint that the 1980 theatrical version, "The Nude Bomb," was a bit of a bomb itself--nominated for a Razzie as Worst Picture and grossing just under $15 million. And to give you some sense of how poor that is, "Arthur," an unpretentious little comedy released around the same time, raked in $95 million. It also apparently wasn't much of a yellow flag that a TV reunion movie, "Get Smart, Again!" received only a lukewarm reception when it aired in 1989.

But with Platt missing and Max Smart the new Chief, Agent 99 a Congresswoman, and their son (Andy Dick) a doofus who's teamed with a new female agent, 66 (Elaine Hendrix, "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion"), the show just goes off in a different direction. The focus is now on Dick and Hendrix rather than Adams and Feldon, KAOS is now an evil corporation bent on financial world domination, and the entrance to the triple-secret CONTROL headquarters is now a soda machine instead of a phone booth. Oh, sure Zach (Dick) has a sneaker phone, but it's not the same thing. Adams in his prime could pull off the gag, but Dick doesn't even come close. The lone highlight in this seven-episode debacle comes when Bernie Koppell ("The Love Boat") returns as evil CONTROL genius Siegfried. Though Brooks and Henry are listed among the writers, the gags just aren't remotely funny this time around. Even Agent 66's Fembot-style pointy metallic-looking bra that shoots seems a little tired.

But, DVDs are like Monopoly. Eventually, you land on every property, no matter how worthy it is of a second-chance audience. Purists and TV scholars will want to add this to their "Get Smart" collections because of the "Wurst Enemies" episode, but I can't imagine too many others knocking people over to get to this title.

The "complete series" constitutes seven half-hour episodes, which are included on a single-sided disc:

1) "Get Smart." In the '95 pilot, Zach gets promoted to Secret Agent and assigned to work with a reluctant partner, Agent 66 (Hendrix). Their mission: to go undercover at a fashion show to prevent KAOS from stealing a revolutionary new and indestructible fabric called Du-Tracalon. Like the rest of the episodes except for one, it sounds a lot more fun than it is.

2) "Casino Evil." Zach and Agent 86 are sent to Las Vegas, where they go undercover in order to sabotage a KAOS-owned casino. Eh.

3) "Goodbye Ms. Chip." KAOS kidnaps Agent 66 and implants a chip in her brain which programs her to assassinate African President Mazabuka (Tucker Smallwood). Mildly amusing at best.

4) "Shoot Up the Charts." This psychedelic episode would have been fun in the Seventies, but it's a little tired for the Nineties. Agent 66 poses as a singer as she and Zach try to foil a KAOS plot to brainwash teenyboppers and build a powerful new weapon. Fair, at best.

5) "Passenger 99." Congresswoman/Agent 99 Smart and her family are aboard a plane that's hijacked by a KAOS assassin, and her deal with a diplomat is threatened as much as their lives. Another so-so episode.

6) "Wurst Enemies." In the best episode of this short-lived series, Zach's new girlfriend, Jessica (Leah Lail), turns out to be the daughter of his dad's nemesis, Siegfried. Bernie Koppell reprises his original role, and squares off against Max again over a KAOS plot to launch a nuclear missile.

7) "Liver Let Die." Would that the rest of theese script were as clever as this title. In an only okay episode, Zach and Agent 66 pose as doctors at a hospital which is suspected of being a front for a KAOS organ theft ring.

Total running time: 158 minutes.

The box says this is remastered in High Definition, but I can't imagine anyone spent a lot of money to transfer this to disc. That said, the video is a decent-looking full-screen (1.33:1) presentation with rich looking colors and hardly any grain. In other words, no complaints here . . . by comparison.

The audio isn't much, though. It appears to be a Dolby Digital Mono in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, closed captioned in English and with additional subtitles in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Nothing fancy, but nothing distorted or scratchy or so deficient that it draws attention to itself.

Are you kidding me? Bonus features for a seven-episode sitcom? There are no "Get Smart"-related extras, though Sony has taken a page from the Disney playbook and included two "minisodes": a "Newsradio" episode ("Super Karate Monkey Death Car") and a "T.J. Hooker" ("Partners in Death"). Or maybe it's not an idea borrowed from the House of Mouse. Maybe it's just good old-fashioned guilt that prompted Sony to add a few other shows to this bare-bones release.

Bottom Line:
What do you call a TV show with six okay episodes and one very good one? Cancelled. Most of the world as we know it won't care a whole lot about this release, but "Get Smart" fans will enjoy that very good episode featuring Siegfried and Max in a final face-off. This episode elevates the series from a 5 out of 10 to a 6.


Film Value